Locating Your System

Download Print-Friendly Fact Sheet: Determining and Locating Your System

The first step in maintaining your system and saving money is determining the type of system you have and locating where it is on your property. Below are the steps you can follow to locate your cesspool or septic system: 

  1. Confirm you have a home wastewater treatment system. See the map  of the sewered/unsewered areas which will give you a general idea if your home is in a sewer district. You can also check your property survey or call your local municipality; they may have a copy of the approved building plans for your property on file. Before calling, it helps to have your Section, Block and Lot number (from your tax bill). Note that property surveys and building plans (especially older ones) are often incomplete. You may have a home wastewater system even if it is not shown on these records or is in a sewered area.
  1. Find your cesspool or septic tank. Go to the basement and determine which direction the wastewater pipe exits through the wall or floor (the wastewater pipe is generally the largest diameter pipe, often made of cast iron or plastic). Then, head outside your home to locate where the pipe leaves. Use a thin (3/8” to ½” inch diameter) metal rod as a probe to poke around in the soil 10-15 feet from the house’s foundation, moving in the same direction as the pipe was headed in the basement. Note that the pipe should get deeper and deeper on a slight downslope as you move further away from the house. Once the tank is located, you may want to place a marker in the ground to note its location.


Make sure there are no buried utility cables or sprinklers or electric lines running.

  1. Map the system’s location. To help locate the system again, make a sketch of your home, garage, and other permanent features (i.e., foundation) with measurements from these landmarks to the center of the cover of your cesspool or septic tank and to the center of your leaching pit.

Note: You may have more than one system, or an additional “dry well” to handle washing machine water.

  1. Still can’t find it? Trained septic professionals can help you locate your system by flushing a tracking device down your toilet and tracking it with a meter on the surface. Once they locate it they will start digging to uncover the components (i.e. access cover, edge of the tank). Due to the time and specialized equipment necessary to locate your system this can substantially increase the cost of your first inspection and maintenance.

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This website was prepared for the C.E.S.S.P.O.O.L. Project with funds from the New York State Department of State through Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund